Jan. 17, 2018 By Meghan Sackman
A local advocacy group is holding a rally next week on Northern Boulevard to announce its support for congestion pricing.
Make Queens Safer, a group that advocates for roadway safety, is calling on the state legislature to back congestion pricing arguing that it will help reduce traffic on Northern Boulevard and thereby deaths.
The group says that many drivers use Northern Boulevard in order to get to Manhattan via the toll-free crossing at the Queensboro Bridge—as opposed to using other East River crossings since they have tolls.
The group argues that with congestion pricing all drivers would have to pay to go into Manhattan south of 60th Street, making the Northern Boulevard corridor less advantageous and therefore less trafficked.
Drivers who use the MTA-tolled access points—such as the Queens-Midown tunnel– would be credited upon going below 60th Street providing price equity. Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his state of the state speech on Tuesday, called on the legislature to pass the plan.
The rally, which will take place on Jan. 24 at 8:15 a.m., will be held at 80th Street and Northern Boulevard, where Miguel Torres, an 11-year-old boy, was fatally struck by a dump truck on his way to school at I.S. 145 school in December 2012.
The corridor has recently been coined “The New Boulevard of Death,” taking the moniker away from Queens Boulevard. There have been eight deaths since January 2017, according to the DOT.
The DOT is likely to redesign Northern Boulevard and held a series of workshops in 2018 soliciting ideas from the public as to how best to reconfigure it. The thoroughfare–which is narrow compared to Queens Boulevard– currently consists of two moving lanes either way, with a third lane available for rush-hour traffic.
Christina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer, said that the DOT will be in a better position to make changes if the number of cars using Northern Boulevard is reduced.
“We need to realize that less cars allows for better infrastructure in the area,” Furlong said. “[Northern Boulevard] needs to be a thoroughfare for the community, not an expressway to the Queensboro Bridge.”
Make Queens Safer will be joined at the rally by Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and Fix the Subway coalition.
Juan Restrepro, the Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that congestion pricing will encourage people to adopt other modes of transportation.
“We’re not saying congestion pricing is the solution for Northern Boulevard,” Restrepo said. “But It will help free up the street and make redesigning it more possible.”
Make Queens Safer has invited a number of public officials to the rally.
Most of the state legislators who represent western and central Queens have announced their support for congestion pricing.
Assembly members Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Catalina Cruz (D-Jackson Heights), Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) told the Queens Post this week that they support congestion pricing. Additionally, State senators Mike Gianaris (D-12th District) and Jessica Ramos (D-13th District) have expressed support.
Assembly member Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City) has yet to respond.